Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why I'm voting yes in the Presidential Age Referendum

Did you know there's a second referendum happening on Friday? The one that proposed to reduce the candidate age requirement for presidential elections from 35 to 21. I'm voting YES for the same reason I'm voting yes and here's why.

As a 27 year old, I find is odd that I'm technically old enough to become a TD, a minister or even taoiseach (all roles that effect people's daily lives) but I'm considered "too young" to become what is largely a ceremonial role. Why does someone like Dana (for example) have more of a right to stand for President that I have. We have this idea of a "elder statesman" president but are the qualities of a good President that age specific. In my mind, things like being confident, inspirational, a good public speaker, a good ambassador, knowledgeable about constitutional law, passionate about society etc are all things that make some "Presidential". Sure, life experience is something to consider but I've met people in their twenties and thirties that have far more "life experience" than some people in their sixties.

So you might think that a 21 year old is too young to be President? You could be right. But this referendum doesn't mean that a 21 year old will automatically become President. They still have to win an election and to be fair, we're probably never going to elect a 21 year old. This is more likely to apply to someone aged 30-34. That said, even with a threshold of 35, the youngest president elected was 46 and I'd say the average age of a President when they office is a lot higher.

Its not easy to become a candidate, especially for an independent candidate without the backing a political party. Before you start you'd actually want to be President. Then you'd need to know you have the financial and logistical support to run a grueling national campaign. You'd need to confidence to put yourself out there knowing you're automatically at a disadvantage because you're "too young". And then you need to get the support of 20 members of the Oireachtas or 4 county councils to get on the ballot paper, which again without the backing of a political party is a big ask. So if despite all those barriers, in the unlikely event that a 21 year old (or someone aged 22-34) can pull all that off, then why shouldn't they be able to put themselves forward and get on the ballot.

And if you still think this candidate is too young, then guess what? You vote for the other guy! We live in a republic. That means we get to vote for our representatives. No body is forcing you to vote for the younger candidate, all this referendum means is that they can ask for your vote. And who knows, having a younger candidate might make for a more interesting election and engage more voters which can't be a bad thing.

Respect and the Referendum debate

This post is an editing version of something i posted on Facebook this evening. I've received a lot of positive feedback on the post and it generated some interesting discussions on the topic so i'll put it here.

You might be wondering why I decided to post this message (there's a point to all this at the very bottom I swear). I expect as this point that you've noticed there's a referendum on same sex marriage happening in Ireland this Friday. It's generated a lot of debate and has got a bit heated at times. There's also another referendum on changing the minimum age of presidential candidates to 21. If you weren't aware of this, i'm not surprised as its got very little coverage in comparison to the Marriage Referendum.

If you you're friends with me on Facebook, you'll probably have gathered that I'm voting Yes in both referendums. I've put up a number of posts and statues over the past few days about the referendum on marriage and got a fairly positive reaction. It hasn't all been positive but I expected that. I wasn't going to say anything but today I received a rather negative message from someone I know. I won't name and shame this person (I'd like to think I'm better than that) and I'm not taking it to heart. However it has got me thinking about the nature of respect in this 

I have 1980 "friends" on facebook. That's a big number and with a number like that its inevitable that there are some no voters within that group. While trying to further both campaigns, I've tried to be respectful to those of different. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion but that doesn't mean that opinion can't be questioned - I constantly try to question my own arguments and openly welcome those with a different view to point out if they disagree. If we don't question and discus these issues, then society cannot be expected to move forward. 

To date only a small view have come forward and questioned my beliefs (mostly undecideds). I'm sure there are more people out there who feel the same way but are afraid to voice their opinions in the fear of a social media witch hunt. This is not what I would want. As I've said, I've tried to respect others. If i have offended you, I sincerely apologize- this was not my intention

In this instance, this person (you know who you are) has decided not to be respectful. In fact he was very offensive to me personally. Thankfully I'm (currently) in a position where I can read it and not take it to heart. Another person however might not be fortunate. If someone recieved that message while struggling with their identity and/or mental health issues, who knows what could happen. This debate has already got nasty and I fear it will get worse over the coming days.

So my point (I told you there was a point), if you are going to engage with someone online, please so respectfully or don't do so at all. Question the idea and not the person. If you find you disagree with someone so much that you can't engage them in respectful discussion then ignore them or hide/block/delete them on facebook. If you're willing to be respectful, i'd love to hear from you.